Heat over Golden Temple ACs

GtIt seems the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has stealthily installed two giant four-tonne ACs in the Golden Temple's sanctum sanctorum, disregarding protests from Sikhs and heritage conservationists across the world.

The covert operation — for the benefit of its granthis and VIP visitors — comes after SGPC's tactical retreat last year following its decision for the first time to install airconditioners. The greatest risk from these machines is to the beautiful frescoes, and the heritage building is now at the mercy of variations in temperature, said shocked anti-AC crusaders and conservationists.

SGPC defended the decision, reportedly taken on the request of Surinder Kaur Badal, the Punjab CM's wife, who visits the temple every month. Avtar Singh Makkar, SGPC president, said the committee had taken "extensive opinions" from conservation experts before deciding on the technology and placement of ACs.

"No damage has been done to the historical building," he said, and denied charges that Surinder Kaur Badal was behind this. "It was the ragis (hymn singers) who complained of sweltering heat while performing kirtans for two-three hours at a stretch."

Very few are convinced. Gurmeet Rai, heritage conservationist, said, "It's difficult to believe that the huge ACs would not cause any damage. I have attended several workshops where experts said it is better to provide proper ventilation for preservation than expose interiors to drastic variations in temperatures, causing condensation and excessive moisture. This is known to destroy paintings and surfaces."

'Don't spoil temple with technology'

Conservationist Balwinder Singh from Guru Nanak Dev University said: "It's a wrong decision, period."

He added: "The management shouldn't have played with the natural climate of the sanctum sanctorum. Controlled air from the AC can pose a serious threat to the centuries-old frescoes and other art work. The architecture of Sikhism's t sacred shrine had in its original design factored in cross ventilation to keep the climate inside pleasant."

Neither are Sikh leaders amused. Delhi Sikh Management Committee president P S Sarna said that although his own management committee had installed ACs in historical buildings like Sis Ganj and Bangla Sahib gurdwaras, these weren't heritage structures like the Golden Temple, which was originally built by the fifth Sikh guru, Arjun Dev.

"The Golden Temple shouldn't be spoiled by such exposure to new technology."

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